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Saamba K’e wildfire still burning out of control as of Thursday

The out-of-control wildifre near Saamba K’e is showing no signs of slowing down and fire crews are doing whatever they can to try and protect the community.

The out-of-control wildifre near Saamba K’e is showing no signs of slowing down and fire crews are doing whatever they can to try and protect the community.

The latest update from NWT Fire on the evening of June 8 indicated the size of the blaze was estimated at 265,000 hectares and sat an estimated 10 km away from the edge of Sambaa K’e at its closest points. It’s a huge number, for sure, but luckily, it hasn’t changed over the past couple of days, according to Mike Westwick, wildfire information officer with the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

“We had some favourable conditions with some rain and the wind,” he said. “The size of the fire doubled last week, but we’re doing what we can to keep the community safe.”

Part of that job involves trying to prevent the loss of structures. Air tankers have been completing drops on priority targets near the community to attempt to slow growth at the fire’s front as visibility allows, while the structure protection involves continuing to set up and maintain sprinklers to try and stop fire from igniting should flames reach the community.

“These aren’t your regular backyard-type sprinklers — these ones have some power to them,” said Westwick.

He also said the structure protection work has spanned out past the community near Island Lake.

One home was lost during an ignition operation, he added, which is always a tragedy and the GNWT will work with the family that has lost their home to get them the help they need. Two cabins have also been lost and the owners have been notified.

“You don’t ever want to see people lose their property,” he said. “We’re in the business of protecting people and property in the wildfire program, and it is deeply upsetting when things go wrong.”

Westwick said a total of 48 personnel are assigned to this fire, including an incident management team, along with seven crews now onsite, heavy equipment, ignitions specialists, a structure protection specialist, multiple airtankers, and three helicopters.

Several members of the community have evacuated to Fort Simpson; Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson said on June 2 that 75 people made it to the village and it was done in a timely manner.

“Evacuees were scheduled to stay in the Fort Simpson recreation centre in the gym and arena,” he said. “The village had set up the evacuation centre full of cots. However, almost all evacuees have found other places to stay with family, friends, or other locations in the community.”

The village will be providing meals three times a day at the evacuation centre for the evacuees, he added, while 13 people stayed behind in Saamba K’e as essential staff.

One fire which is now under control is the blaze on the K’atl’odeeche First Nation. That declaration was made on Tuesday, which means that residents of KFN can now return home.

Westwick said the main reason was of work done by fire crews in ‘mopping up’ around the fire.

“They went around stirring and soaking and made great progress on that front,” he said. “What they’ll be doing now is seeking out hot spots by using infrared technology and continuing cleaning up. A lot of the big work has been done, but there are still things to watch out for.”

Those who do return will have to look out for such things as root systems which may have been damaged during work, he added.

“We want residents to be mindful of unstable trees and be cautious,” he said. “We had a buncher picking up logs and taking them to other places, but not all of them were picked up because they couldn’t be moved. We’re advising residents to stay away from those areas.”

About the Author: James McCarthy

I'm the managing editor with NNSL Media and have been so since 2022.
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